Name: Reserva Biológica Buenaventura
Location: Vía Santa Rosa-Machala
Elevation: 400 a 1300 msnm
Province: El Oro
Ecosystem: Bosque Siempreverde Piemontano
Extension: aprox. 2.800 hectares
Project duration: 2018-2021
Number of trees: 1.010
About Buenaventura Reserve
The Buenaventura Reserve was established in 1999 to protect the typical location of the Perico de Orcés (Pyrrhura orcesi), which was discovered at this site by Robert Ridgely and other researchers in 1980, and described by him and Mark Robbins in 1988.
In the 1990s, forest cover in this area declined and was substantially devastated by the creation of extensive grasslands. The reserve grew from its initial 400 hectares to nearly 2,000 hectares in 2011. The reserve covers an altitudinal range from almost 400 m to just over 1200 m, and protects one of the most extensive patches of Piemontano Cloud Forest in the western foothills of the Andes of southwestern Ecuador. This zone combines elements of dry Tumbesian forests of southern Ecuador and northwestern Peru, with elements of the humid forests of the Chocó of northwestern Ecuador. This is one of the most devastated regions in the world – it is estimated that only 5-10% of the original forest cover remains standing. More than 330 bird species have been recorded in the Buenaventura Reserve, of which 12 (perhaps even 13) are globally threatened, while 34 other species are regionally endemic.
This tropical cloud forest depends on moisture coming from the Pacific Ocean (locally called garúa), which cools as it ascends into the mountains. The relative absence of sun reduces evapotranspiration and keeps the forest moist even during the dry season, when rainfall is scarce. The lower part of the reserve is much sunnier, drier and has more of a “tumbesino” appearance.
In Buenaventura, 31 species of hummingbirds have been recorded. The Cabecirrufas Guacharacas (another endemic and endangered species) and the Tucanes del Chocó are frequently observed in the reserve’s trees, along with a great variety of birds, particularly now that the forest is still being restored to what used to be a pasture. The highest portion of the reserve, over 800 m in altitude, covers the habitat of Buenaventura’s signature bird, the Perico de El Oro. The reserve is home to nearly two-thirds of the world’s population of this parakeet, with 150-200 individuals; its population has been growing steadily as a result of a successful campaign of artificial box-nests that make up for the lack of adequate nesting sites. A neighboring mountain is inhabited by another flock, which completes the total population of this species in the world.
Cloud forest trees provide ideal habitat for many epiphytes, including numerous orchids. The abundant humidity and nutrient-rich soils allow for remarkably rapid natural regeneration, which is why the forest is recovering quickly (much of this recovery is assisted by the reforestation programme of the Jocotoco Foundation). Until a few years ago, a large extension of what is now the Buenaventura Reserve was covered by pastures for cattle, in which the African grass dominated, a very aggressive and strong species. The largest grasslands have been the primary focus of reforestation efforts with a wide variety of native species. More than 400 hectares have been reforested in this way by Jocotoco, and recovery has begun. Now, much of this “ex-grassland” is becoming a closed canopy forest, providing ideal habitat for many bird species whose populations are also recovering. Watching this process is rewarding and allows us to believe in its long-term success.